September Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Raising Awareness of Fertility Preservation Options

Organisations and people around the world join in helping to raise awareness of ovarian cancer in September each year. At Medfem Fertility Clinic, we contribute by not only raising awareness of ovarian cancer and its impact on a woman’s fertility, but also of the options available for women with ovarian cancer to preserve their fertility so they can still have their own biological children in future.

One of five gynaecological cancers including cervical, vaginal, vulval and womb cancer, ovarian cancer is the UK’s most deadly gynaecological disease, according to the UK Ovarian Cancer Action. It causes more deaths each year in the UK than the other four gynaecological cancers combined. In the United States, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death in women, according to the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

The AACR explains that there are three types of ovarian cancer in adults. Ovarian epithelial cancer begins in the tissue covering the ovary, lining the fallopian tube, or the peritoneum. Ovarian germ cell tumours start in the egg or germ cells. Ovarian low malignant potential tumours begin in the tissue covering the ovary, and are characterised by abnormal cells that may become cancer.

Recognising and surviving ovarian cancer

The US National Cancer Institute notes that these cancers often go undetected until advanced stages and as a result it has a low survival rate, with the five-year survival rate at just 49.1%.
The UK Ovarian Cancer Action also confirms that many more women will survive ovarian cancer if there is greater awareness of the symptoms of this disease, particularly while screening programmes for ovarian cancer are rare. This is because the earlier a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, the better her chance of survival.

Unfortunately, because of a widespread lack of awareness about ovarian cancer and its symptoms, it is a disease that’s often overlooked, misunderstood or misdiagnosed.

In fact, an estimated 90% of women in the UK don’t know the four main symptoms.

The four main symptoms of ovarian cancer are:

* bloating
* stomach pain
* difficulty eating and
* frequent urination.

Because these symptoms are so general, they can sometimes be confused with other conditions, such as IBS.

If you have any of these symptoms and if they are persistent, see your doctor as soon as possible. Early detection is key to surviving cervical cancer.

The effect on fertility

Unfortunately, the treatment for ovarian cancer – as for any other cancer – will affect a woman’s ability to conceive a child in the future. An oncologist will be able to provide an estimate of the likelihood that the treatment will negatively affect fertility.

The treatment for ovarian cancer usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.

Surgery involves the removal of cancer tissue during an operation. Chemotherapy involves using special medicines to shrink or kill the cancer. Chemotherapy can be administered via pills or IV, or sometimes both.

Certain medications, as well as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, will damage a woman’s ovaries and/or the quality of her eggs, while the surgical removal of ovaries will have an irreversible impact on her fertility.

Can you preserve your fertility if you have ovarian cancer?

Thanks to amazing advances in technology, fertility preservation is now viable option to consider for women who may have trouble conceiving in the future due to, for example, ovarian cancer and its treatment.

Fertility preservation for women refers to the process of freezing a woman’s eggs, her embryos, or, potentially, her ovarian tissue. This may provide a chance to conceive in the future, should she then be unable to conceive on her own.

Egg freezing is often the suitable solution for many situations. It gives women diagnosed with ovarian cancer the opportunity to preserve their fertility by freezing eggs before their treatment commences.

Embryo freezing is also an option to consider. An embryo is an egg that has been fertilised by a sperm. Thanks to modern technology called vitrification, it is now possible to freeze embryos with great success.

Egg Freezing and Storage for Fertility Preservation

Egg freezing and storage – or cryopreservation as it is also called – is a much more realistic option today thanks to a revolutionary technology called vitrification, which is a new freezing technique.

Vitrification freezes the eggs at a very fast rate, so that the eggs are preserved without the formation of damaging ice crystals. The process has shown significantly improved survival rates for eggs than previously used techniques.

At Medfem Fertility Clinic, we have years of experience in egg cryopreservation. This means that we are able to provide you with an expert medical opinion about your current and future reproductive potential as well as your eligibility for egg freezing.

Before egg freezing is done at Medfem Fertility Clinic, you will meet one of our fertility specialists for a comprehensive consultation to review all of your options. Your fertility specialist will also perform various tests to determine your ovarian reserve and to predict your egg yield from an egg freezing cycle.

The next step in the treatment process involves the preparation of your ovaries for the production of mature eggs needed for the freezing process. It begins with taking fertility drugs, followed by the administration of fertility medications designed to allow your ovaries to begin the growth of the eggs that will be frozen. Once the eggs have matured adequately, your fertility specialist at Medfem Fertility Clinic will collect the eggs during a relatively pain-free procedure under a light sedative. The procedure has a rapid recovery, usually within two or three hours.

After collection, your eggs are prepared by one of our embryologists in our cryopreservation laboratory for freezing via vitrification. Following the freezing process, your eggs are transferred to a liquid nitrogen storage chamber until you are ready to use them.

You can read more about Egg Freezing here.

Embryo Freezing and Storage for Fertility Preservation

An embryo is an egg fertilised with sperm, and it is also possible to freeze an embryo successfully.

With modern freezing techniques and greater experience, results from the transfer of frozen and thawed embryos are now almost as good as those with fresh embryos. Today, embryo freezing is widely practiced at advanced fertility clinics.

Embryo freezing allows for the storage of unused embryos for an indefinite amount of time. At a future time, a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) can be performed in a simple, short procedure.

Our team at Medfem Fertility Clinic has extensive experience in embryo freezing. We have been preserving women’s fertility by freezing embryos since 2007 and since then we have seen a considerable increase in embryo survival rates and substantially higher pregnancy rates after frozen embryo transfer procedures.

You can read more about Embryo Freezing here.

Your Next Fertility Preservation Step

Our team at Medfem Fertility Clinic believes in making world-class fertility treatments available for everyone.

If you have any questions about the impact of ovarian cancer and its treatment on your fertility or about the fertility preservation options that may be available to you, we invite you to contact us by clicking here or contacting us on +27 (11) 463 2244.


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